Month: August 2020

Q & A with Patryk Wysocki

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of ice Hockey

The only Polish player in the history of the MHL, 20-year-old defender Patrick Wysocski, who managed to play for clubs from four countries where hockey is not very popular, he spoke about himself, and also shared his opinion whether weak teams are needed in local leagues.

How did you start playing hockey and why did you choose this sport?

I started playing hockey when I was four years old. It all started with the fact that my older brother also played hockey, he is four years older than me. Why did you choose this particular sport? I was invited to train with my brother, I skated with them on the ice and, apparently, I liked it alot.

You were born in Belarus, but why did you decide to play for the Polish national team?

Yes, I was born in the town of Nesvizh. My dad is Belarusian, and my mom is from Poland. Almost immediately we moved to Poland and it so happened that because of this I only have a Polish passport.

Was there an opportunity to get into the national team of Belarus and did you ever want to play for them?

Of course, there was no such proposal from Belarus. I think if it were, then my parents and I would have thought about it, and perhaps I would try to play for Belarus.

In the Polish championship, two of the three clubs you played for were youth. ( Patrick Wysocski played for SMS Sosnowiec U20, GKS Katowice and PhZL Katowice U23 )

Yes, there is a PHZL Katowice U23 in the championship. It is considered the preparatory team for the World Junior Championships. All the guys who want to be in the national team can get there and play in the Polish championship. 1-2 days before the game they will be added to the roster and told to prepare for the game. If I am not mistaken, the team, after the World Junior Championships, which ends in December, no longer takes part in the league.

Is it good that there is such a team in the PHL?

Yes, I think it is needed. It’s funny that you play in your club at the youth level and you can be called up to the Under 23 team. This allows more games to be played per season, which allows for additional XP. If you are a young player, you can only get this opportunity in Poland.

According to the statistics of Eliteprospects, in the 15/16 season you played only in the national team. Is it really so?

No, a little different. Yes, I played in the national team, and at the club level I played for the Belarusian junior for HC Brest.

Viktor Zaluzky and Patryk Wysocski in the HC Brest

At the end of the 16/17 season you left Brest. What caused this?

I moved from Brest to Gdansk. First of all, conditions were better in Gdansk. When I was 16 years old, I did not look at salaries, but in Belarus they offered much less money. In Poland, the level was higher, and so my parents and I decided that we needed to move to Gdansk. And the coach at MH Automatyka Gdansk was Kovalev, who had experience of working in the Minsk Dynamo.

How did it happen that yourself, Kirill Gerasimenko and Dmitri Shcherbakov went out on the ice with basketballs?

There is a basketball team in Gdansk. We were asked to shoot a video, like an invitation to a basketball games. So we went out with the basketballs

Kirill Gerasimenko, Dmitri Shcherbakov and Patryk Wysocski in Gdansk

You played for the Polish national team for four seasons in a row.

I played two times at the junior and youth world championships.

Did you expect to be called up to the national team last season?

I did not receive a call to the main team. So far, no one has written to me and no one has called. It’s hard to say whether I was waiting or not. Somehow I didn’t think about it. If they ask me to go – I will go. I believe that I will get my chance, because I am only 20 years old. You can say that I am still young.

Next year, the 2021 World Championships in the IB division will be held in Katowice. Would you like to play there?

Yes, of course, I would like to play. This is only for the benefit of your career to say that you played with the national team of your country. It’s kind of a plus. It’s cool that we will play at home.

How do you assess the chances of the Polish national team to be promoted?

It seems to me that Poland can go to IA, because the IB division is not the level at which the national team of our country should be in. A year ago, there was a chance to rise higher, but one point was not enough.

For you, the past season was you did not score any goals. Will this affect your performance in the upcoming season?

In fact, it’s a shame that this season I failed to score. I think that every coach sees the game differently and every player has his own role on the team. There are defenders who do not know how to attack, but defend well, and there are defenders who play poorly in defense, but look good in attack. I will try to score more.

You’ve already had something similar. For the first time in a long time, then you distinguished yourself in the Kunlun Red Star Heilongjiang. This was your first goal in the MHL. Do you remember how you got to throw?

Yes, I remember that match. We played against Kapitan Stupino. We were losing
0: 5. I shot the puck from the blue line and it somehow flew into the goal. And in general, that game ended 5: 7.

Patryk Wysocski with puck of first goal in MHL

Do you still have that puck?

Yes, I took it. It lies at my house and reminds me of the MHL.

What Medals have you won?

I have two silver medals from the World Youth Championship and a gold one from the junior one. I think these are the most valuable of the medals.

How did you manage to win the junior world championship?

We scored more than the opponents (lol). We meshed into one whole team. The most important thing is that everyone supported each other and played better with each other, therefore we won gold medal.

Maciej Rybak and Patrick Wysocski celebrate winning the 2016 Junior World Championships

On February 9, the Polish national team beat Kazakhstan in the pre qualification for the Olympic Games. Did you watch that match and were you surprised by the result?

Yes, I watched the match when the Poles played against the Kazakhs. It’s cool that Poland managed to win. I was a little shocked that Kazakhstan lost with such a squad, especially at home, Hockey is such a game that it is not clear who will win and when.

Two new teams will play in the PHL next season. Do you think it is right that lower division clubs get their chance in the PHL?

Yes, two clubs got a chance to play in PHL, and one team was eliminated – MH Automatyka Gdansk . I played there. They have minor financial and ice-rink problems. Let the league expand. Why not? Let there be more teams, more guys playing. Then the level of Polish hockey will rise. As for me, this is good.

What experience did the Continental Cup give you?

I didn’t play much in the Continental Cup. There was a story there. At Katowice we had a Canadian coach. He preferred to play with five or six defenders, and there were nine of us then. This led to the fact that many players did not play. Anyway, I managed to watch the international tournament. Going at the age of 19, or even just attend such a tournament, to play a couple of shifts is an experience.

With what expectations did you go to Belgium and how professional is everything there in terms of hockey?

When I terminated the contract with ORG Junior Beijing , I came home to Brest to see my parents. I got an agent and we were waiting for offers. It is clear that in the middle of the season it is difficult to get somewhere, because the rosters of the clubs have been formed. For me, the season was not the best, as I was injured with a tear in the ligaments on my knee. In December, an offer came from Antwerp Phantoms. I understood where I was going, that this BeNe is not the best league in the world. I didn’t want to lose the rest of the season and during the time in Belgium I could improve my weaknesses. If we compare Belgian hockey with Polish, then Polish, of course, is a higher level. In BeNe, not all players approach the game professionally. There are professional and semi-professional teams. I expected a little different, but what worked, it worked.

How can you compare part of the season in the Bene league with part of the season in ORG Junior Beijing?

 Here and there my teams were in the last places. When you get into such clubs, you are more on the defensive. As a defender, it even works in my favor. Although you still need to learn to play attack.

ORG Junior Beijing this season beat Moscow Dynamo. Did you communicate with any of your former teammates after that match?

We still correspond with some of them. Then I called the boys and asked how they managed to win. In that game, they only had ten players. They said that they were surprised at their victory. In the course of the season, they did manage to win a lot of games, but here they beat Dynamo with ten men.

ORG Junior Beijing played all home matches in Dmitrov. Do you think this is unfair enough?

Why is it unfair? I think it was the right decision. We were supposed to be based in Riga, but the Chinese hockey players were not given visas and because of this we were told that we would live somewhere in the Moscow region. I think that it even played a positive role, since there were no long flights. All the essentials were in Dmitrov. The town is small, ice-covered and there is a hotel.

A year and a half ago, you got a unique opportunity in a game against MHC Spartak. Your playing time has almost reached 30 minutes. Do you remember that game?

I have more hockey memories with Kunlun than with ORG Junior Beijing. That season it was the other way around, I came to Kunlun in the second part of the season. I have not spent less than 20 minutes on the ice. Sometimes we played four defenders. So in this regard, I was definitely satisfied. Yes, we lost, but everyone got a lot of playing time.

What are your plans for the next season?

I will definitely will not return to Belgium. Now I am not considering the option of continuing my career there, and so far there have been no proposals from their side. In general, there are no plans yet. Due to the coronavirus, almost no one knows anything. Clubs from some countries are already making transfers, starting to conduct trainings, and in many of them nothing has even budged yet. Therefore, I cannot say anything about this yet.

Skate away the winter blues

By Stephanie Lilly – Chao Hanoi

For those who fancy trying out a winter activity in Hanoi, ice skating perfectly fits the bill.

Winter is well and truly here, and for those hailing from colder countries a big part of the season is putting on a pair of skates and gliding across frozen water– or ice as we like to call it. In a country where winter does not come close to freezing, what hope is there for frozen lakes and ponds for people to indulge in the nostalgic activity of ice skating? Believe it or not, the Vietnamese love to skate as much as anyone else, well, nearly. For those keen to give it a try, the Royal City Vincom Mega Mall in Hanoi is an ideal place to give it a spin.

Aside from shopping, the giant mall has an assortment of activities including a large indoor skating rink. Launched in the summer of 2013, the ice rink provides a great way to scratch that winter itch.

After entering the mall, follow the little skates symbol seen throughout the mall until you come upon the giant ice skating rink; you can’t miss it.

It costs 220,000 VND per adult (though is cheaper outside the weekends) and an additional 50,000 VND for skate rental. There are also penguins, dolphins and other animals with seats and handles for children or adults who are a little out of practice and need some support on the slippery ice.

Weekends tend to be busier, but if you make it on a weekday you may have the entire rink to yourself, ideal for working on those rusty spins, loops and axels. Or maybe just to fall over without anybody looking! If you are scared of following you can pay for a chaperone to guide you across the ice. Sometimes events such as skating competitions, a local Hanoi hockey league, or even EDM dance parties are held at the rink.

Hockey players are not to be messed with. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Hockey.

Take your family, go with a group of friends or invite your crush to enjoy a wholesome winter activity. If skating is not your bag do not not fear, this mall is “mega” for a good reason, a huge selection of activities are on offer including bowling, arcades, a cinema and a solid selection of restaurants serving hot food, bubble tea, ice cream and more.

Tim Stuetzle Leads German Hockey’s Next N.H.L. Influx

Tim Stuetzle, left, has been ranked as the top European skater by N.H.L. Central Scouting

By The New York Times

With his strong skating and sharp stickhandling skills, Tim Stuetzle, an 18-year-old German forward, has drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane.

“Tim has this incredible imagination when he’s on the ice,” said Craig Button, the director of scouting for the Canadian sports network TSN. “Great creativity, and he combines it with this, kind of, boldness.

“He doesn’t just play with a great determination and great skill level, he plays with this panache. It says, ‘Stop me, I dare you.’ Not a lot of players have that.”

Stuetzle earned rookie of the year honors in the top German men’s league last season, playing on the top line for Adler Mannheim. One of his linemates and mentors was the former N.H.L. player Ben Smith, who won a Stanley Cup alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.

“So many guys from my team always said Patrick Kane to me, so that’s been a lot of fun for me,” Stuetzle said. “For me, it’s always tough to compare because I think others should make an opinion on that. But for sure, it’s a big honor for me.

“I still think I’m very far away from him and there’s a lot of things that I need to improve to get on his level. I still have a lot of time because I’m very young.”

Stuetzle has been ranked as the top European skater by N.H.L. Central Scouting. And he could surpass Leon Draisaitl, whom the Edmonton Oilers selected third over all in 2014, as the highest-drafted German-developed player in league history.

“I think it would be unreal for German hockey if you have that kind of first-rounder,” Stuetzle said. “But in the end, what’s most important for me is to play a long career and win something. I’m there to win and I hope to have a long career and a healthy career. That’s the most important for me, but, for sure, right now I’m hoping to get drafted as high as possible and, yeah, maybe higher, or the same, as Leon.”

Before Draisaitl’s selection, only two other German players had ever been drafted in the first round. Marco Sturm, now an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings, went 21st over all in 1996. Forward Marcel Goc was selected 20th in 2001. Dany Heatley, a forward selected second over all in 2000, was born in Germany but grew up in Canada and represented it in international competition. All told, only six German-born skaters and two goalies suited up in the N.H.L. last season. But those numbers are expected to grow quickly, with Stuetzle at the fore.

Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus top prospect for the 2020 N.H.L. draft, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10. But Stuetzle has been placed second on a number of expert rankings, including Button’s.

“I really do believe that he is one of the very few players in his draft that’s capable of coming into the N.H.L., if there’s a 2020-21 season, coming in and being a contributor,” Button said. “Not a player that dons a uniform, but a contributor to the team that drafts him. I think he’s that good.”

Stuetzle should be an easy fit on most N.H.L. rosters, as he can play all three forward positions.

“I have no problem with each position, but I think I can be a very, very good centerman if I get stronger in a couple of years, because I love having the puck in the middle and making plays,” he said. “I plan, long term, on the center position. But last season went very good on the wing as well.”

Marco Sturm, middle, was drafted in the first round in 1996 and coached his native Germany to a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics

Germany’s hockey program has been on the rise in recent years. Most notably: With no active N.H.L. players permitted to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sturm coached the German team to an unexpected silver medal. And Draisaitl followed his first 50-goal season in 2018-19 by capturing the Art Ross Trophy as the N.H.L.’s leading points scorer in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 regular season. With 110 points in 71 games, he finished 13 points ahead of his closest challenger, his teammate Connor McDavid.

In the last two years, two more Germans have been drafted in the first round. Forward Dominik Bokk was chosen 25th by the St. Louis Blues in 2018, and the Detroit Red Wings took defenseman Moritz Seider at No. 6 in 2019.

This year, more than one German could be selected in the first round for the first time. Wingers John-Jason Peterka and Lukas Reichel are ranked seventh and 11th on N.H.L. Central Scouting’s European skater list. Button ranks Reichel as the 33rd-best overall prospect and Peterka 42nd.

“J.J. is probably what I would call a little bit more of a two-way player,” Button said. “Coaches will be comfortable with him being out on the ice because he is so smart. And Lukas is, I think, a little bit more tilted toward being a playmaking-type forward rather than a goal-scoring winger, but it’s an area that he can develop.

“When you’re talking about potential first-round picks, I think Tim, obviously. But J.J. and Lukas certainly can be.”

Germany’s rise in hockey has come partly with the help of a program called Powerplay 26.

After a lifetime in hockey, including winning a bronze medal as a player at the 1976 Winter Olympics, Franz Reindl took over as the German Ice Hockey Federation’s president in 2014 and helped create the program. Powerplay 26 is a comprehensive plan for improvement at all levels, bringing more youth players to the game and supporting them more effectively, with a goal of consistently competing for medals at all levels by 2026.

Since Powerplay 26 began in 2014, the German senior men’s team has climbed from 13th to seventh in the world rankings. The under-20 team earned promotion to the top level in December 2018, and the under-18 squad followed suit four months later. Over the same time, the women’s program slipped slightly, from seventh to eighth.

“Our level is Switzerland, Slovakia,” Reindl said. “The big nations, they are ahead of us. Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czechs and U.S.A. are the top six. But to be seven — it’s amazing in these last years, going from 13 to seven in the international world. But now it’s even harder to stay there, and to maybe make the next step.”

Sustaining that success, said Stefan Schaidnagel, sporting director for the German federation, is a matter of consistently having positive results.

The Italian national team summer camp in Egna concluded

By Italian Ice Hockey Association
Translated By George Da Silva National teams of ice Hockey

A week of intense work, with many sessions on the ice and off the ice, for the 44 Italian  players who participated in the first real seasonal meeting of the senior men’s national ice hockey team . After the physical tests were carried out in July at the CONI Olympic Preparation Center in Formia, Italy, coach Greg Ireland  meet the players in Egna, Italy to kick off the 2020-2021 “campaign” which will end with the World Championships in Riga, Latvia (May 21 – June 6). The camp, which began on Sunday August 16th, ended this morning with a last match between white and blue Italy before breaking ranks. The next time Italy will meet, should be in early November with the 1st stage of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge scheduled in Hungary, where Italy will challenge the hosts, Poland and South Korea.

Forward Alex Petan did not take part  and his place was taken by the two young players forward Luca Biondi , who played last year with Fassa, and Marco Sanna , of Cortina . The very young Carlo Muraro was added to the group of goalkeepers, born in Asiago in 2002.

Greg Ireland was very satisfied with the progress of the players, which took place between Bolzano and Egna Italy, the head coach of the national team, Greg Ireland said  “Many were surprised by the large number of players – explains Ireland – but in this way I had the opportunity to see and get to know as many players as possible, and get an idea of ​​the group I want to form. Without forgetting that, in North America, these numbers of players are quite normal when it comes to early season training camps . The responses I got were really positive from all the guys, and we were able to work on many important aspects of the game and system that I want to give to the national team. We have tackled all kinds of situations, from power-play to 3on 3, and thanks to every in-depth coaching staff we were also able to carry out single exercises to improve individual techniques “

Peter Spornberger and Marco Insam tangle in front of goaltender Jake Smith during the intr squad game

Among the novelties of this training-camp a yoga session was implemented, a discipline difficult to associate with ice hockey, but considered to be great importance for improving athleticism, coordination and balance of the players. “The first days of camp were quite difficult because most of the lads arrived from 5 to 6 months of inactivity – said assistant coach Giorgio De Bettin , but slowly everyone had raised their level, and in the last training sessions and matches, we have seen really good things “. De Bettin himself, starting from this evening, will be in Aosta , where he will lead the under 20 national team that will carry out its training camp together with the under 18 national team.

Goalies: Andreas Bernard, Carlo Muraro, Jake Smith, Justin Fazio, Gianluca Vallini

Defensemen: Tobias Brighenti, Gregorio Gios, Daniel Glira, Roland Hofer, Thomas Larkin, Gianluca March, Stefano Marchetti, Marco Marzolini, Jan Pavlu, Chad Pietroniro, Phil Pietroniro, Peter Spörnberger, Ivan Tauferer, Alex Trivellato

Forwards: Domenico Alberga, Raphael Andergassen, Simon Berger, Luca Biondi, Martin Castlunger, Dan Catenacci, Davide Conci, Ivan Deluca, Daniel Frank, Alex Frei, Luca Frigo, Markus Gander, Peter Hochkofler, Marco Insam, Diego Kostner, Alex Lambacher, Marco Magnabosco, Michele Marchetti, Matthias Mantinger, Angelo Miceli, Simon Pitschieler, Joachim Ramoser, Marco Sanna, Michael Sullmann, Tommaso Traversa

Coaching staff: Greg Ireland, Riku-Petteri Lehtonen, Giorgio De Bettin, Diego Scandella, Fabio Armani, Gianluca Canei

Ice hockey’s fascinating story in Israel with the man who started it

An Israeli hockey league game at the rink in Holon, near Tel Aviv. (Facebook)

By Joseph Wolkin –  World Israel News

Most just saw a tiny rink but Shindman had a vision.

Ice hockey in a Mediterranean climate? Most people would throw up their hands and head to the beach. Not Paul Shindman. The Canadian ex-pat who made aliyah, or immigrated, to Israel in 1987, may have left behind his home country but not his love of hockey.

Shindman was inspired in the late 1980s by Israel’s first ice skating rink in Kiryat Motzkin. Most just saw a tiny rink but Shindman had a vision.

He got a job working for rink owner Asher Farkas, helping build the second, bigger rink in Bat Yam that featured a floor cleaner converted to serve as a Zamboni. His initiative to collect hockey equipment and start a league got a boost thanks to a group of Canadian soldiers stationed in Israel at the time.

One can say Shindman’s dream came true. Ice hockey is flourishing in Israel. The country is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and the sport is considered to be one of the most popular during the Maccabiah Games.

“The ice rink [in Kiryat Motzkin] wasn’t huge. It felt about the size of a big living room and dining room combined. But it was a rectangular shape with round corners, and you could play hockey on it. We started playing three-on-three, and I started collecting equipment. I asked people to bring donations, like pads, sticks, when they came to visit Israel.

Israel ice hockey pioneer Paul Shindman at the new ice rink in Tnuvot, near Netanya

“By the end of 1988, I had enough equipment. I started recruiting guys, mostly by word of mouth. I put an ad in the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel monthly newsletter, and I found a couple of guys that way. We started a four-team league.

“In 1989, we had the first experimental season in Bat Yam, with four teams – Jerusalem, Netanya, Bat Yam and Haifa. They played a double-round round-robin. The first game would finish and the guys would take off the equipment to give it to the guys for the next game.

“It was on a dinky rink. What happened was, the rink owners hired me because I’m great at mechanical engineering. I’m a hockey player and coach, so I was going to be their adviser. But they surrounded the rink with plate glass windows. After we shattered two of them, they decided to get sheets of plexiglass with little grommet holes. Before every game, we’d go around and hang these sheets of plexiglass to protect them from getting shattered.

“At the time, I was in touch with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Skating Union because we started a nonprofit, originally called the Israel Ice Hockey and Figure Skating Association. There were less than 100 athletes. We registered, and I turned to the IIHF and they said the qualifications to join the IIHF are, ‘You need a full-size rink and an official recognition from your national Olympic committee that you are the representative body for the sport.’

“I turned to the Olympic committee, and they basically laughed and said don’t waste our time. The major event that really got us started was when I got a call from the liaison person who was handling the rest and relaxation for the Canadian Peacekeeping troops. Canada, at the time, had a couple of hundred peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. They heard there was ice in Israel, so they had equipment sent over. They wanted to have an exhibition game, which was in February 1990.

“We got blue and white hockey sweaters made, and we had Team Israel versus Team Canada. I invited the mayor of Bat Yam, the general manager of the Israel Olympic Committee, who knew the mayor, and we invited the ambassador of Canada to do the official puck drop. This tiny rink was packed with 200 to 300 people.”

“The entire staff of the Canadian Embassy came out to cheer. We did the whole shebang with national anthems, gift exchange and the like, and the Canadians clobbered us, 20-2. It was bizarre, but the Israel Olympic Committee saw we were for real, gave us a letter and I turned back to the IIHF and, in 1991, Israel became a member.”

What’s been the biggest challenge for ice hockey in Israel since then?

“The biggest challenge for many years was there wasn’t enough ice. All of the rinks in the center of the country were tiny. There were about 10 different rinks that opened and closed.

“The Olympic rink opened in 1994 in Metulla on the Lebanese border, and that story is a book in itself. So, to play full hockey, you had to go to Metulla, which is about a three hour drive from the center of the country.

“About seven years ago, an Israeli entrepreneur built a large rink in Holon, which is just outside of Tel Aviv. You can play four-on-four full-rink hockey with blue lines. It’s a shortish, narrowish rink, about two-thirds the size of a full rink. But you can have real games. Suddenly, Metulla became second fiddle. You’d go up once a month to Metulla, but you played all of your hockey in Holon.

“Pavel Levin, father of ice hockey player David Levin, is a roller hockey coach. He got investors and built an NHL-size rink in the moshav called Tnuvot, which opened last year near Netanya. Now, you can have a certified international tournaments near Tel Aviv. Israel now has two full-sized rinks and three you can play hockey. There’s a national senior league, junior league, kids leagues, non-contact leagues and several thousand people are playing hockey. What’s amazing is that Arab countries play hockey, too, mostly in the Gulf states.”

You hear about sports bringing Arabs and Jews together. How is that happening with ice hockey?

“There are some Israeli Arabs who play up north in Metulla. But the rinks aren’t near any Arab population centers. Arabs in Israel play a lot of roller hockey, but there hasn’t been a big move to get them on the ice yet. That really needs a hockey, Zionist philanthropic boost from somebody who can get them involved. There is interest. The big breakthrough, I think, is signing the peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates. They will hopefully get the OK to play ice hockey against Israel.

The UAE, Kuwait and the other Arab countries refuse to play Israel, and the IIHF understands that. Israel is grouped in Europe and the Gulf States are grouped in Asia. Now that there will be direct flights and full diplomatic relations, there’s no reason that the UAE can’t play games against Israel.”

What would that mean for you to see that happen for Team Israel?

“Anytime Israelis compete against Arabs in any sport, it’s a big thing. Sports builds bridges. Sports is a stepping stone to peaceful relations, mutual understandings and communication between people. Unfortunately, the Islamic world weaponizes sports against Israel.”

You saw that with judo just a year ago with Sagi Muki.

“Judo is the prime example. It happens in other sports as well, including hockey, but at a low-key level. The international organization realizes the political reality and doesn’t group Arabs with Israel. Now with the UAE peace deal, there’s no reason not to. We’ll have to see where that goes.”

What’s the goal for hockey in Israel?

“My goal was to – I lived the Canadian-Jewish-Zionist dream – I made aliyah and played hockey in Israel. It doesn’t get better than that. We’re there. We’ve made it.”

Is there a potential to pursue an Olympic run?

“No, Israel is too small. The countries that make the Olympics have a bigger population, a much more northern location and a lot more resources than we do. We only have a few thousand people playing hockey with a few rinks. You can’t go out in the winter and skate in your backyard. You don’t get that ice time.

“There’s an Israeli kid, David Levin, when he was 12 years old, told his parents he wanted to move to Toronto to live with his aunt and uncle in order to play hockey. He moved to Canada and grew up playing there, becoming a top junior player and getting tryouts with a couple of NHL teams, but moving there was one of the reasons why he could make it.

“Israel in the Jewish Olympics? Yes. Ice hockey is already a Maccabiah sport… For the hockey final at the Maccabiah games in 2017, four Jewish NHL owners donated a rink to the City of Jerusalem. They set it up in the basketball arena Hapoel Jerusalem plays in. It was basically NHL size. They advertised the final, which was Canada versus USA. Six thousand people showed up to the final. Wayne Gretzky sent in a video greeting that they put on the scoreboard in between periods. It was the biggest event at the entire Maccabiah besides the opening ceremonies.”

New gig for John Parco as former Thunderbirds coach heads over to Italy

Sault Ste. Marie native John Parco is returning to Italy for a new gig with the Italian Hockey Federation

By Randy Russon – Sault This Week

A successful three season run at the helm of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has turned into a new challenge for high-end coach John Parco.

The soon-to-be-49-year-old Sault Ste. Marie product has signed a two-year contract with the Italian Ice Hockey Federation.

In his new role, Parco will be the director of hockey development for the Italian Federation.
Parco told Sault This Week that as director of hockey development for the IIHF, he will oversee all levels of the game from the under 20 national program down to four- and five-year-old kids.
He noted that part of his job relates to a pre-Olympic hockey project program.
“The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milan, Italy and we want to make sure that we can put together a team that is at least competitive,” he explained.
“Overall, it is a big job with a lot of responsibility but I am up for the challenge,” relayed Parco, who is no stranger to Italy, having met his wife there and having played and coached overseas for more than two decades.

Parco, his wife, and their two kids have long maintained a residence in Italy, even while he was in the Sault and coaching the Thunderbirds.
On that note, as he prepares to head to Italy at the end of this month, Parco told Sault This Week he will retain a residence in Sault Ste. Marie, adding that he plans to return on occasion to remain involved in the Superior Sports Training gym that he owns.

Before going on to a decorated professional career as a player and coach overseas — mostly in Italy — Parco was a three-year scoring star as a center with the erstwhile Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, playing for coaches Larry Mavety and Danny Flynn.

Drafted by Belleville out of the Sault Major Hockey Association in the third round of the 1988 OHL priority selections draft, Parco produced 109 goals, 148 assists, 257 points over three regular season campaigns with the Bulls.

A National Hockey League draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Parco went on to a 19-year pro career, spending the majority of it as an A Division standout with HC Asiago in Italy.

As he was a team captain in the OHL with Belleville, he also wore the “C” on his jersey with HC Asiago. Parco also starred for Team Italy at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

After retiring as a player, Parco was the coach for HC Asiago for three seasons and led them to two championships. And having spent the past three seasons in his hometown as coach of the Thunderbirds, Parco led the local NOJHL team to three-year regular season record of 110-46-12.

He led the Thunderbirds to the NOJHL championship series in 2018-2019 before losing to the Hearst Lumberjacks in the seventh and deciding game of what was a thrilling, outstanding set.

Parco resigned his position with the Thunderbirds after the recent 2019-2020 season and has since been replaced by Denny Lambert as head coach.

Lambert, a former journeyman winger of many years in the NHL, also played for, and later coached, the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.

Vito Nikolic: “After the departure of foreign players, we understood that Medvescak was over”

By Sergei Bychkov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

22-year-old goalkeeper of the Croatian national team and the last official player of Medvescak Vito Nikolic spoke about Zagreb, about local hockey and about the club during there death.

 You were born in Zagreb, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and a very beautiful city. Tell us about the city, about the people who live there?

I love Zagreb, this is my home. The people here are kind, the city is beautiful, and there is something to see all the time. I like the atmosphere in the city. This is exactly what you need, the perfect balance between rush and relaxation, and I myself prefer the relaxing side of Zagreb. People here love to spend time in cafes, sitting and chatting. It’s kind of a culture here.

3 best places in the city, where, in your opinion, everyone should be if they come to Zagreb?

 Almost everything happens in the center of Zagreb, but two places that are not in the center of the city and must be seen are Medvedgrad, the castle above Zagreb, and the zoo. A coffee session at the center is required. My recommendation is to go to Zagreb in the winter, around Christmas time.

Let’s talk about hockey. How did you end up liking hockey? Why did you choose this particular sport?

My dad took me skating with him when I was 2.5 years old, and I really liked it, then he sent me to the hockey camp, and I realized that I wanted to become a hockey player. I have tried other sports, but I never stopped playing hockey.

Vito Nikolic with team Croatia.

Tell us about your first team you played for?

My first team was Mladost Zagreb, where I learned how to skate and it took me 3 seasons before I could put on my uniform and play real hockey because I was too young.

 You started your professional career in the Slovak U-18 league with Topolcany in the 13/14 season, played 4 matches,  and had  GAA of 4.23 goals per game and save percentage of 90.4% . Why did you start your career in Slovakia? How can you rate time with the team? What do you remember the most?

I went to Slovakia in the 2012/13 season, playing in the U16, and I think this season helped me a lot to improve my game. I had to leave Croatia because I wanted to improve and play the best hockey. Slovakia is a hockey country and I had a chance to leave Croatia, so I took it. I learned a lot there because we constantly trained there. It was a good experience for me, and then I was given a few extra games with the U16 team.

Your last year in Slovakia you played in Dubnica U-18. Although your stats were worse than a year earlier, you played 19 matches, you had more practice. Which of these seasons has helped you improve your skills and play the most?

Yes, that was the year when of ups and downs began. One game could be great and the next day I had a bad game. That year I was working on improving myself, and I think that the experience I got that season helped me a lot too.

That year you also made your debut for the Croatian national team at the IIA U-18 World Championship, where you played 4 matches and had a saved percentage of 88% . The Croatian national team finished in 5th place in this tournament. How can you rate your play at this tournament?

 At that tournament, our goal was to stay in the division, and we did it. I could have played better in some games, but I didn’t let the team down in the games that mattered the most. Then there was the game against the Netherlands national team for the 5th place, which we won 2: 1 and we were save.

Vito Nikolic in goal for the Croatian national team at the IIA U-18 World Championship

In the 16/17 season you played on three teams of the Medvescak system: Medvescak U-19 (Croatia U-18), Medvescak U-20 and Medvescak-II (IHL and Croatian championship, respectively). Was it hard to play when you changing teams and where did you feel the highest level of hockey was?

It was not hard, because it was the same circle of people. EBYSL (Austrian U-20 League) and IHL had their highest levels that season. The EBYSL teams had some great young players who now play for EBEL and IHL had some experienced players who have played for the Slovenian national team. so its hard to say.

 The next season was the best for you in terms of trophies: you played for Medvescak-II in the IHL (one of the Slovenian hockey leagues) and won the championship. You were the main goalkeeper on the team. In addition, you played for the Croatian U-20 national team in Division IIB of the World Youth Championship, played 4 matches, were named the top goaltender of the tournament and led your team to a bronze medals. How did you feel after such a successful year?

It was great to win the IHL, but I like playing for the national team more. It was a good tournament, but, unfortunately, we did not fulfill our task of winning gold medal. But I have good memories of that tournament.

Now let’s talk about season 18/19, the last season for Medvescak. What was the situation at the club before the season started?

The situation was pretty good, or so we thought. Everything looked good and normal. The problems began 3 months after the start of the season.

You played 14 matches for Medvescak in EBEL that season. On average, you conceded 8 goals per game and save percentage 86% of. How has the situation with the club changed over the season? When did you realize that this was the end for the club?

Yes, I started playing my first minutes on the main team after many foreign players  left the team and the team began to attract home base players. The results weren’t very good, we lost every game since it happened. During the games, about 60 shots were shot at our goal. The situation was so bad that we barely gathered 12 guys for several away games. The matches were very difficult, but we enjoyed playing.

As far as I know, you were the last official player of Medvescak, you left the team only on 26 August. How did the club fare at the end of the season?

– The end came almost when all the foreign players left, because they were not paid. So after the foreign players, we realized that this was the end, since there was no more money.

Vito Nikolic playing for Medvescak

As far as I understand, Medvescak does not exist now. Could Medvescak somehow comeback, do you think it was possible?

There is no such professional team as Medvescak. As we all know, nothing happens without money. If someone could raise money, I think that the team could be saved, I see no reason why it could not be in this case.

What is the current situation with hockey in Croatia after Medvescak “died”?

The situation has worsened, but Croatian hockey can survive without professional hockey.

On August 26, 2019, you signed a contract with the French team Courbevoie. You played for this team last season. What can you say about the team and hockey in France?

The team is very well organized and takes very good care of me. The league has several excellent foreign players with good experience. I am very happy there and will stay for one more season.

You played for the Croatian national team in two tournaments and played 3 matches in total. What is your rank on the national team? Is it possible to say that you are a young star of Croatian ice hockey?

 My rank depends on the goalkeepers who come to play for the national team. I wouldn’t say that, I still have a lot to prove, and so far I’ve only had one good tournament (lol).

One of the best goalies in the Medvescak System

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any offers from different teams?

I will continue this season at Courbevoie, and for now that’s all I know. I don’t know what the future will bring me.

How has quarantine changed your life?

Actually not that much, I was at home, enjoying the time with my family and training off the ice.

Who is your favorite player?

Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Nabokov.

What is your favorite NHL team?

Edmonton Oilers.

Your advice to players from countries that are exotic for hockey, such as Croatia.

If you are serious about hockey and you have a chance to play in a good hockey country, take it. Also, practice whenever you can and then just enjoy the game.

 I hope that my readers will believe in you and will follow your progress. Good luck and I hope that one day you will write your name in the history books of Croatian ice hockey!

 I hope so too, thanks for the interview!

How Team Canada trained to take on the Soviets in 1972

Hockey players met at Maple Leaf Gardens to get ready for Summit Series.

Source: CBC Archives

Players for hockey’s Team Canada gather at Maple Leaf Gardens in August 1972 ahead of a tournament against their Soviet opponents.

Hockey’s 1972 Summit Series was going to pit Canada against the Soviet Union. And after a summer off, it was time for the Canadian team to start training.

“Team Canada opened its training camp here at the Gardens today with a full squad,” said CBC reporter Terry McInnes on Aug. 14, 1972.

Some 16,000 spectators were expected at Maple Leaf Gardens when Toronto hosted a match in the eight-game contest. The Canada-Soviet competition, he said, had been billed as “the most exciting hockey series of all time.”

Thirty-five of the best players from the National Hockey League would be taking part. “To a man they have one thought in mind,” said McInnes. “To prove that the world’s best hockey team is Canadian.”

Stick handling

Player Tony Esposito hones a hockey stick ahead of the team’s departure for Moscow. “I don’t even know if they’ve got a rasp over there,” he said

Reporters had been invited to the Gardens that morning as training camp got underway, as the players engaged in “light skating, posing for photographers, and interviews.” 

They were captured in pairs wearing white long underwear and doing sit-ups, with player Stan Mikita sitting on a fellow athlete’s legs.

Phil Esposito, at the time a player with the Boston Bruins, was customizing one of several hockey sticks he was planning to use for the set of games to be played in the Soviet Union.

As he honed the blade with woodworking tools, he discussed how the Canadian approach to conditioning was different from that taken in other countries.

‘Different training programs’

The players paired off to demonstrate their sit-up techniques for the assembled media

“They have different training programs,” Esposito said, mentioning a Swedish fellow player, Mats Lindh, whose regimen included swimming “15 miles a day.”

Canadians, by contrast, spent their summers drinking beer, swimming, and boating.    

McInnes asked about a story he’d heard that Soviet players were up at 6 a.m. to run around their hotel, while the Canadians were “just coming in at that time.”

“That’s their fault for getting up that early,” Esposito said, with a laugh. “I don’t like it, myself.”

Giving ‘100 per cent’

Player Phil Esposito acknowledged that hockey training in Europe and the Soviet Union differed from Canadian methods

Players Vic Hadfield and Ron Ellis, interviewed in practice jerseys on the ice, knew what was at stake.

“Not only are we playing for ourselves, but for Canada and the National Hockey League,” said Hadfield. “We’re going to give it 100 per cent.” 

McInnes asked about the absence of some of the game’s best players — Bobby Hull, Derek Sanderson, and Gerry Cheevers — who, as part of the World Hockey Association, were excluded from the Summit Series.

“Certainly we’d like to have them … but that’s up to the fellows that are running this,” said Hadfield.

According to the Globe and Mail, Hockey Canada had voted in July to limit the Canadian team to players from the NHL due to the “rapidly proliferating war” between the two leagues.

“Two weeks may not be enough time to get in real top shape,” said player Ron Ellis, who was a right winger for the Toronto Maple Leafs

From Chelmsford to Maine – GB forward eligible for 2020 NHL Entry Draft

18-year-old Mason Alderson-Biddulph is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

By UK Hockey Fan

The door has been pushed ajar for young UK hockey players dreaming of playing in the NHL.

Liam Kirk was scouted in Sheffield, selected by the Arizona Coyotes 189th overall in the 2018 NHL draft and has impressed in the Ontario Hockey League since the Peterborough Petes opted to take a gamble on him in the import draft in that same year

That doesn’t mean life is ultimately easier for promising hockey players this side of the ocean. There are many different avenues and no path is without it’s pitfalls.

Listed at 6’3 and 194 pounds, 18-year-old Mason Alderson-Biddulph is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The London native played junior hockey in Chelmsford and Guildford before opting to take the step of playing overseas to continue his development – a route now trod by many starting in the UK.

The USA has been Alderson-Biddulph’s hockey home for the past two seasons.
A stop in North Andover, Massachusetts was first as the GB forward suited up for Islanders Hockey Club in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC).
In his first taste of US hockey, Alderson-Biddulph recorded eight points in 31 games.

The 2019-20 campaign was spent in Maine as Alderson-Biddulph finished 4th in team scoring for Berwick Academy. At the USHS-Prep level, the only European on the roster registered thirty points in 23 outings of which twelve were goals.

It’s at the junior international level where the GB forward has been making waves and had many wondering if he could follow in the footsteps of Liam Kirk.

At the U20, D2A level, Alderson-Biddulph has accrued fourteen points (4-10-14) in ten games, helping GB win a Silver and a Bronze medal.

Previously, Alderson-Biddulph played at the lower age group with the U18’s and recorded duplicate statistics, although, of his fourteen points at that age-group, it’s impressive that nine were goals.
The young man also captained GB U18’s but unfortunately suffered racist abuse that many black people in sport sadly still have to endure.

The despicable event occurred during the 2019, Division 1 Group B World Championships hosted in Székesfehérvár, Hungary.

In the last two minutes of a game against Italy, Great Britain’s under-18 ice hockey captain said he was called a ‘n****r’ and added: “I was absolutely shell-shocked and completely disgusted.”
“He screamed it at the top of his lungs and I just couldn’t believe it. The fans heard it, everyone heard it.”

The player who shouted the abuse apologized to the GB Captain in person afterwards, along with the team captain, coach and the chairman of the IIHF, but this wasn’t enough for Alderson-Biddulph – “The damage has been done. He was man enough to step up and say sorry but what he said is disgusting.”

Nobody could ever be fully prepared for that kind of abuse while representing their country.
But with his father, Brian Biddulph, being the first black player to represent Great Britain at ice hockey, Mason was likely aware of the possibility of it occurring and the young man certainly handled himself with credit in the situation.

Brian Biddulph played professionally in the UK but also had a stint in North America, spending the 1986-87 season playing for the Langley Eagles in the British Columbia Hockey League.
No doubt providing some inspiration for his son to follow that path but also some much-needed advice at this crucial time.

As per a NY Times feature about Liam Kirk, Mason is quoted as saying the following during his time in Massachusetts:

“It’s fun being a big fish in a small pond [in England], but you really don’t know how good you are until you jump into the sea.”
“I just wanted to see how I’d fare against the kids that play every day in and out like the same way a British kid would play” soccer.

“The routes were to either go major junior or have four years of schooling that could possibly be paid for and then I could have a degree at the end of it, a sustained life and a good job.”

It was also noted in the said article that ‘an 11th grader at Triton Regional High School in Byfield, Mass., Alderson-Biddulph has had discussions with the likes of Colgate, Princeton and St. Lawrence.’

The chances of Mason Alderson-Biddulph being selected in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft are slim. He’s not featured in any of the major scouting lists and there has been no chatter around his name on social media.

That’s not to say he couldn’t be a late bloomer.
If he does indeed end up playing in the NCAA (which is highly scouted), then anything is possible as we have seen on many occasions.

Lisa Haley named head coach of Hungarian women’s hockey team


Lisa Haley has been named the head coach of Hungary’s women’s hockey team.

The Westville native takes over the reins of a team that will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation world women’s hockey championship next year in Halifax and Truro.

“We were looking for a coach and reached Lisa Haley through the Canadian federation,” said Márton Vas, the general director of the Hungarian Hockey Association in a news release. “Her biography speaks for itself. We want to give the girls the best possible preparation before the world championship and the Olympic qualifiers. I am sure that she will be able to develop the players and prepare the team to the maximum.”

The 47-year-old Haley, who was an assistant coach of Canada’s gold-medal winning women’s team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and silver medals at the 2008 and 2013 IIHF world championships, is excited about the challenge.

“I know the recent successes of Hungarian women’s hockey and the opportunity to add to it inspires me,” said Haley in the news release. “The results so far provide a strong foundation that can ensure long-term success, and even greater things can be built on that.

“Now that the national team has risen to the elite, we want to stay there too. Being Canadian, plus I’m from Nova Scotia, I will be especially proud to represent Hungary at the world championships in Halifax and Truro in the spring of 2021. We will be ready.”

Haley is in Hungary, leading the team’s training camp in Tüskesent.

Haley has also enjoyed international success with Canada, winning gold at the 2010 IIHF world women’s under-18 championship and also captured gold at the 2007 Four Nations Cup with the senior women’s team.

In 2011 and 2014, she served as a mentor coach at the IIHF women’s high-performance camp for the top under-18 players in the world.

Haley (nee Jordan) is coming off a long stint as the head coach of the Ryerson University women’s team. Haley took over the Ryerson job in 2011 after 14 seasons as head coach of the Saint Mary’s Huskies.

Haley guided Saint Mary’s to eight appearances in the Atlantic University Sport finals, winning four league titles.

She is a two-time AUS coach of the year and was the Canadian Interuniversity Sport coach of the year in 2003.

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